Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fair Trade Day, 2012

A fair trade stall operator takes a break from
promoting fair trade philosophy and products
to smile for the camera.

Fair Trade Gwangju is BACK!

This last Saturday was Fair Trade Day 2012, and thanks to Beautiful Coffee, a fair trade festival was held out in Cheomdan Jigu, in the lovely park next to the lake across from GIST. Beautiful Coffee is a subsidiary organisation within the nation-wide Beautiful Store franchise and network.

Fair trade iced tea stall workers
take a break to clap along
with the musical performers up on stage.

Thanks to Shin Yejung from the Beautiful Store and the manager of the whole event, and to Lee Seunghee from Beautiful Coffee for helping the coordination of our visit there, along with the good Kim Jihyun of GIC. Thanks to Jihyun too for continuing to oversee Fair Trade Gwangju's participation in the event despite her personally extremely busy week.

Kim Yul translates and explains
about the
recent development and rapid growth
in popularity of fair trade in Aotearoa/ New Zealand

Thanks also goes to Kim Yul who did a wonderfully admirable support job translating a talk told twice, to two groups of fantastically attentive students. Most seemed to be from Pungam High School. It must be a high quality institution there!

They learned a bit about how the student city of Dunedin and the capital city of Wellington were both granted official fair trade status in 2009. Also Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand, was just recognised formally as being a fair trade city this month. Auckland has about the same population as Gwangju but is much more spread out across the land, so people have to travel further to meet each other to talk about and to buy fair trade products, so that makes their achievement all the more amazing. Congratulations, Auckland!

Yul also told them about how the main New Zealand franchise fair trade store Trade Aid imported just eight tonnes of fair trade coffee beans in 2002, but ten years later it is all the way up to 1,000 tonnes. That's the amount of fair trade coffee drunk in one year within a total population of about the same size as Busan. Wow; "Kiwi" people are very thirsty for fair trade coffee!

Yul also explained about how the principles of fair trade make a fair trade company like Trade Aid different from a common company like Starbucks. Three of the more unusual key guiding ideas are transparency, accountability, and respect for the farmers and the workers. For example, we can see that "transparency" and "accountability" are important to Trade Aid because the not-for-profit company reports publicly each year, including putting their budget online. The Beautiful Store in Korea also makes its financial reports public online too.

Trade Aid has so much respect
for its coffee bean farmers,
it puts pictures of the actual farmers
on their packets of coffee.

We can see "respect" for the farmers and workers of Trade Aid products in many ways; for example, Trade Aid
pays a stable and high price for coffee beans, and this is above the world average. Trade Aid also
returns about a third of company profits each year directly to the farmers. Furthermore,
Trade Aid even
honours the farmers themselves by placing photos of the real coffee bean farmers from each area on the front of their packets of coffee. These pictures include quotes of the farmers' own words explaining why fair trade is so important to them and their families.

We also talked briefly about how we all have the power to talk with our families, our friends, our school-mates and teachers, and even other people in our churches and clubs or hagwons about things like fair trade. Talking leads to thinking, and thinking leads to action, or living a different way. While we may not be able to set up our own shop or import fair trade products from overseas, we can contribute to the ongoing development and growth of fair trade merely by talking about it with everyone.

Finally, we also considered how Gwangju city is the birth-place of the modern move for democracy in South Korea, and how during the May 18 movement in 1980 for many days there was no rule of law, and yet people treated each other fairly, and despite the absense of police no crime was committed throughout the city. In this modern smaller global village thirty-two years later, we can take that idea, that spirit of democracy, and that feeling of fairness out into the world beyond Gwangju by voting with our money; KRW1,000 is a vote for a company and its way of treating its workers.

Students' colourful posters were on display,
helping explain fair trade to everyone at the festival.

In two final notes of thanks, first goes to Zebadiah Arrington and Su Go for the custom-designed T-shirt. You can check out a bit of what they do on facebook at the wall named Museum of Graffiti Art, or else right here.

Last but not least, a very special thanks to journalist Jong Suyeon of igoodnews for the use of all these lovely photographs (except for the Trade Aid packet of coffee).

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